It was a long-anticipated match between the reigning league champion Jackson Reed and upstart Cardozo High School.
Jackson Reed (24-2, 11-0 in the DCIAA), ranked number three in the area and in the top 25, came in the game with a 10-game winning streak. While the Clerks (15-3 overall, 8-2 in the DCIAA), once one of the high school basketball powers in the DMV, were looking to atone for a setback to Coolidge High School last Friday.
To put this in the proper perspective: from 2002-03 until 2006-07, the Clerks won four out of five DCIAA titles, including the City title in 2004. Dating back to even earlier in the 60’s through the 90’s, Cardozo was always in the conversation about top teams and players in the talent-rich DMV. However, Cardozo has suffered through many dismal seasons over the past 15 years.
The Tigers were also ranked through the years when it came to basketball in the area. But it has become one the most dominant teams in the DCIAA the past four years, winning three titles, sending many of its players to Division 1 schools (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, University of Maryland, Alabama) and becoming nationally ranked for the first time in school history during that period.
The intensity of the game and what was at stake was evident, as both teams turned the ball over and missed a number of easy shots at the basket, in what was a frenetic pace in a nearly packed house at the Cardozo gymnasium in Northwest, D.C.
The more experienced Tigers jumped out to an early 8-0 lead before the Clerks rallied to trail only 13-10 at the end of the first.
But the Tigers who have played a strong national schedule that includes teams from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Illinois, and Tennessee failed to capitalize, as they missed 12 free throws in the first half and several easy baskets despite their decided height advantage.
So, with junior guard Cameron Young and Wisdom Carter carrying the offensive load, Cardozo was able to stay within striking distance, with a score of 27-23 at the half.
“I’m sure that they felt good about only trailing by four at the half,” said Jackson Reed head coach David “Tee” Johnson, in his third year as head coach. “We still felt good because despite the missed free throw and bunnies, we knew that we just needed to clean up some things.”
Johnson’s appeal to his team apparently worked as Jackson Reed opened the third quarter with a 16-3 run over the first three minutes to open up a 43-26 lead. Much of the damage was done by the Tigers’ 6-8 talented forward Jadyn Fort, who took over, scoring eight of his team’s points during that run.
It must be noted that Fort missed most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. The Clerks problems were compounded by foul trouble as four of their starters fouled out.
Jackson Reed guard Lucas Sekasi, one of the top players in the area, made sure that the depleted Clerks were not able to stage a comeback. The 6-2 senior finished with a team-high 23, Fort with 13 and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Micah Charles with 10.
The Clerks got an outstanding performance from two future prospects in Young and Cartwright. Young led all scorers with 24 while Clark, a thin 6-6 sophomore forward with a smooth stroke, added 14.
Despite the setback, Cardozo alum Hanif Hill is encouraged by the team’s journey back to respectability.
“As a former player and a coach during the years when were successful, it is good to see the program get back to where it was,” said Hill, now an NBA scout. “A lot has happened between the time we had success and now so it is exciting for me and the Clerk Nation to see the program on the way back.”
With the season winding down, both teams will be looking to the upcoming DCIAA tournament, March 14-16. They could meet again.
“When you play a game like this and you are not at your best, you get to see players step up when they get the opportunity,” said Johnson, regarded as one the top young coaches in the area. “This will definitely help us because it gave some experience to some players we don’t normally count on.”
Source: Washington Informer